The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976)
Article 5928 by Dave Sindelar
Directed by Nicolas Roeg
Featuring David Bowie, Rip Torn, Candy Clark
What it is: Arty science fiction
A stranger who claims to be from England appears in the United States and forms a corporation with the help of a variety of patents. However, he has an ulterior motive for his actions other than just amassing a fortune. Who is he, what are his plans, and will the world allow him to bring them to fruition?
I’ve encountered Nicolas Roeg before in this series (DON’T LOOK NOW and EUREKA), and I’m familiar enough with his work to not expect anything linear or easily grasped. Though the movie doesn’t make it explicit until about the half-way point, it gives enough hints early on that it isn’t a major spoiler to reveal that the stranger is from another planet. David Bowie is well cast in the main role here, not necessarily because of his acting chops but because his own persona already projected a sense of a thoroughly alien sexuality. Roeg has a strong visual sense, and there’s a lot of brilliant imagery to the story. I’m not all that taken with the story, however, and the movie runs on too long; once the main character’s fortune takes on a downward trajectory, it becomes a tiresome slog because you just know their is no real chance of it reversing itself. So, despite the visual highlights, I find this one of Roeg’s less satisfying films.